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Thomas Ohlson


By Bennet Lerner
Thomas Ohlson, known to Chiang Mai Mail readers as “Mark Gernpy”, writer of the column “Let’s Go to the Movies”, passed away on February 1, 2013, at Rajavej Hospital, due to a virulent lung infection. Born on June 7, 1934, he was 78 years old.
Thomas had lived in Chiang Mai for nearly 20 years. Before coming to Thailand he graduated from Occidental College, CA, majoring in English and Drama. He was an officer in the Navy, and, on leaving the Navy, was a social worker in New York City, working with battered women. Later, until retirement in 1991, he was the Director of Computer Support for the Department of Human Resources, Office of Budget Administration of the City of New York.
His primary interest, however, was the theater. Thomas had a promising career as a playwright and was the founder of the Theater of Concern, a travelling theatrical troupe that performed religious plays, many of them written by Thomas. His “Christmas play”, “Gold, Frankincense, Christmas Tree Ornaments, and Myrrh”, a serio-comic portrait of a teenaged, unwilling, and not-quite-sure-of-himself Jesus, was his most successful work and is still performed today.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ theatrical career, one New York critic dubbed him “the next Neil Simon”, was derailed by his alcoholism. It was not until Thomas started what he called his “next incarnation” in Thailand that he found peace and sobriety. A friend wrote, “Thailand was Thomas’s liberation from his demons”.
In Thailand, he was especially appreciated for his witty and informative movie columns in both the Chiang Mai Mail and the Pattaya Mail and his blog ( Thomas said often that he wasn’t a movie critic but that he wanted to stimulate his readers to decide on their own whether to see a movie or not.
“Even when they are really, really terrible, almost every movie has something in it that will be worthwhile for someone,” he once said.
The last movie he saw, “the last movie I’ll see before the end of the world!”, he said, because he saw it on 12/21/12,was “The Life of Pi”. About that film he wrote, “I’d be very happy if this won the Oscar for best picture of the year. I think it’s that good as popular entertainment, and as an artistic achievement.” The friend mentioned above also wrote, “Thomas’s greatest love was Thailand. That is where he was the happiest ever.” Among his joys here were his “grandsons”, whom he nicknamed “Sunshine” and “Moonbeam”. Thomas was cremated and, as he requested, most of his cremains were floated down the Mae Ping River.

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Thomas Ohlson